NY1's "Agents of the City" lawsuit against the mayor went before a state Supreme Court judge for oral arguments this afternoon, but she did not make any decision in the matter. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
The city is digging in its heels, determined to keep Mayor Bill de Blasio's emails with an outside advisor from the public. NY1 and the New York Post have sued over the issue. And the Freedom of Information Act case went before a judge in state Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon.
"I think they are scrambling to try to find a way to keep these documents from the public," said Douglass Maynard, attorney for NY1.
The station is seeking emails between the mayor and Jonathan Rosen. Rosen runs the public relations firm BerlinRosen, which represents real estate developers, unions and non-profit groups, clients with business before the city. Emails the mayor exchanges with people outside of government are normally subject to the Freedom of Information Act, known as FOIL, but in this case the city is saying no.
"Mr. Rosen was not a consultant in any official way with the city. He is a private citizen," Maynard said. "And the FOIL exemption doesn't cover his communications. They should be revealed in response to your request. And there is no reason in the law not to turn them over."
Government watchdogs have raised alarms about Rosen's ties to City Hall, given his private client roster. In court, the city tried to take the conflicts of interest question off the table by arguing they attempted to eliminate it by releasing emails in which Rosen's clients were discussed.
City lawyers are also officially abandoning the term "Agent of the City." Rosen is one of five outside advisers that the mayor's former counsel, Maya Wiley, dubbed an agent. Instead, the city is arguing that Rosen is a consultant to de Blasio, despite the fact that there was no formal consulting agreement.
That seemed to perplex the judge, Joan Lobis. She said she was being asked to make a "leap" to accept the city's loose definition of consultant in this case. She said that being a consultant with the city implies a more concrete relationship, but that Rosen's consultancy was pretty wide open.